Photo: Justice for Port Drivers

Photo: Justice for Port Drivers

A class-action lawsuit representing nearly 400 Southern California port truck drivers has resulted in a $5 million settlement agreement with port trucking company group QTS, ending the three-year-long suit.

The lawsuit was brought by the Wage Justice Center and Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Los Angeles on behalf of Latino and Korean-American port truck drivers who claimed that they had been misclassified as contract workers in order to cheat them out of the wages and benefits granted to full employees.

This is the latest in a longstanding dispute between many port truck drivers serving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the port trucking companies who classify drivers as independent contractors. Most recently, Premium Transportation Services filed for bankruptcy, blaming its financial troubles on driver misclassification lawsuits and legal costs. QTS was also in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings during the lawsuit.

Port drivers have also staged several strikes related to the issue. While few port truck driver are part of a union (as independent contractors they are forbidden from organizing by federal law), the Brotherhood of Teamsters has been active in staging strike demonstrations along with groups like Justice for Port Drivers.

“Unfortunately, misclassification is the port industry norm,” said Nicole Ochi, attorney from Advancing Justice-LA. "Nearly two-thirds of all port truck drivers nationally are misclassified as independent contractors, resulting in an impoverished, mostly immigrant workforce. We are proud that with this settlement, hundreds of drivers will be rightfully compensated, and we hope this case sends a strong signal to other drivers that they can win if they fight back.”